Artists from around Bloomington and the Midwest will gather at the Bloomington Handmade Market Holiday Fair at 10 a.m. Nov. 12 and 13 at the Monroe Convention Center.
The 13th biannual Handmade Market — which takes place each June and November — features artists with a wide range of specialties, from jewelry making, pottery and glasswork to clothing design and lamp-making. The November market is geared toward the winter holidays and features gift items.
Talia Halliday, owner of Bloomington’s oak. plant store and Gather giftshop, has organized the handmade market since 2012. She said this year’s market is the largest yet.
“I guarantee that you should be able to find something for everyone on your list,” Halliday said.
When Mia Beach, Sally Harless and Nicole Wolfersberger began the market in 2009, Halliday said their original goal was to shine light on emerging local artists who may not have had a chance to work in the traditional art field. Halliday and other young Bloomington artists found themselves stuck in between the high-end fine arts world and the older crafting crowd.
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“That's why every year we really want to continue adding new artists that maybe don't have a voice in the community,” she said.
In particular, the Handmade Market tries to include youth artists in the local art scene. High school age vendors will be at the market Sunday in the convention center lobby. Halliday said she tries to act as a mentor for the kids.
“I meet with them and help them figure out their business plan, how to price their work, how to display their work, how to sell their work,” Halliday said. “Because art students haven’t necessarily been taught how to make their art into a business.”
Halliday said she wouldn’t be able the organize the markets each year without the help of her fellow board members, a group of seven local women businessowners: Harless, Allie McHaley, Jennie Orr, Nancy Bradley, Deborah Meader, Beck Scott and Chelsea Jones.
Jones, market board member and jeweler behind Tactile Melodies, said the Handmade Market makes the effort to care for their vendors. For her, that’s what makes the organization so special.
“We know that we are nothing without our artists,” Jones said. “So we try to treat them really well. Our reputation among artists is good. A lot of high-quality makers want to be in our show.”
Over the years, Jones said the artists build connections with each other at each of the fairs. She enjoys getting to check up on the friends she’s made during the markets, see how artists have grown and feel inspired by what they’re creating.
“It feels like a little family reunion,” Jones said.
Because they’re handmade items, visitors get the chance to find artwork unlike anything they may have seen before. For smaller artists in particular, Jones said the market may be the only opportunity for customers to buy their original items.
One local artist participating in the market, Malory Owen, designs nature-inspired, stained glass art pieces. Her shop, Little Tiger Glassworks, was an unexpected result of the COVID-19 lockdowns for Owen.
“It was definitely a pandemic hobby turned life obsession,” Owen said.
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With a master's degree in ecology, Owen said she likes to think art and science aren’t that different. She remembers spending days watching wildlife in the desert and said the observation process translates perfectly into her art. She often creates detailed glass portraits of animals and said she hopes her art helps people to understand the ecological purpose they serve.
“I’m trying to make everybody’s home a little bit more beautiful, a little bit more enriching,” Owen said.
Owen participated in her first Handmade Market over the summer during the June fair. She said she adored the market and the organizers’ focus on community. She thinks uplifting local artists and their original perspectives is a necessity in Bloomington.
“When people connect about something that is really worth having, or express something unique to them and their experience, you have things that are worth keeping in your life forever,” Owen said. “We get some really cool stuff that I think makes life worth living, especially in this kind of crazy world of ours.”
The first 30 people in line on both Saturday and Sunday will be given screen-printed goodie bags filled with items from vendors and sponsors. The market will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
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